Saturday, September 24, 2011

Part Two: Circumnavigation

Hoping that water would have dropped to a reasonable level after our trip to Idaho, Matt and I loaded up and headed out to see what the creeks of the Wallowa's would look like with water in them. Our first destination was magical looking V+ that would go with less water and I am certain Matt will be back to give it another look next year. Navigating the gravel roads was challenging at times, but we kept it on track for the most part. One wrong turn lead to this old house we checked out that was pretty cool. The inside was falling apart but the location was superb!
After a 22 mile gravel detour around a 3 mile section of closed road (including the first of two bobcat sightings), we made it up to a promising fork that had plenty of water. We saw a massive granite face across the stream that was enough to get us to hike up the trail a ways hoping the stream would loose its sediment character farther up when this granite intersected the stream. We made it about half mile before deciding it would be more promising to head elsewhere. Higher up could be worth it, but we didn't have the time to explore at the time.

The massive granite face.

A gorgeous place.

What we were driving across may have been a road at some point, but at this point it was just a part of the creek.

Matt had a lead on a promising section of stream on the main fork, so we scoured the maps and this looked like a good put in.

I thought this sign was silly as we had been on loose gravel for the last 4 hours.

The river was very deceptive as it was running clear, but it was obvious once on it that it was high water. There really were not good eddies. Just slow spots near the shore with shrubs to grab onto. We almost portaged the jam in the next picture as we had to stop 100 yards upstream as there were no more eddies and it looked like it blocked the whole river. I portaged high, Matt low. I was able to get another vantage point and informed Matt it was a very clear route. It may look like there is a large eddy on his left, but that is deceptive, it was moving downstream quickly.

We came to some odd ponds on river left that signaled that we were about the enter the gorge. The next half mile was stressful and ultra fun at the same time. It was endless class four boulder gardens (or would have been at lower water) with boof after boof and lots of splashiness. The stressful part was it was challenging to stop and the river was moving fast. I made a move to catch a shrub on the left above this drop as did Matt.

Don't go around blind corners on exploratory trips!

We ended up portaging as the initial hole at the top was huge and uniform, and it was a big rapid with a large hole at the bottom. It would be more runnable at low water. Below here was a section that was trying to be class five, and maybe it was, but it didn't last long. More class IV lead to a campground, our take out, and some nice people willing to help us shuttle. This section would get run regularly if located in western Oregon, and is still worth doing if you make a trip to the Wallowa's.

The take out at the campground.

A good day on the water, no real eddies at the take out either! A local told us he hadn't seen the river this high at this time of year his entire life.
The next day we decided not to run our first choice as it looked high. So off to complete the circumnavigation of the Wallowa's and finish our scouting. The stream we spent the most time on had wood in bad places for the amount of water. The water continued to be deceptive as it was clear, but there were not any real eddies where we needed them. We found one good drop, that we ended up cherry picking as the rest of the river was not calling to us that day. Matt ran it twice.

Head cam footage of the Cherry Picker Rapid.

The Chase from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

A picture perfect take out.


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